“It links us to the past:” Kwanzaa celebrations begin in Milwaukee, continue until New Year’s Day

MILWAUKEE -- Kwanzaa celebrations began in Milwaukee Monday night, December 26th with dance and prayer centering on the theme of unity.

"It links us to the past. It links us to Africa. This holiday gives us an opportunity to affirm our existence -- who we are as a people -- starting back at the beginning of time as Africans," Clayborn Benson, Wisconsin Black Historical Society said.

Inside the Wisconsin Black Historical Society in Milwaukee Monday, there was a celebration of culture.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa

Benson explained Kwanzaa is rooted in family values.

"And ways of conduct and behavior in a values system that helps people be the best they possibly can," Benson said.

Celebrated for the last 50 years, Kwanzaa is observed daily from December 26th until New Year's Day. Each day is dedicated to one of Kwanzaa's principles -- unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Clayborn Benson

Clayborn Benson

"Our dance instructor tells us not to look at the ground. I`ve got a habit of looking at the ground," Jaia Douglas said.

15-year-old Douglas on Monday took part in the opening ceremony.

Children with the Nefertari African Dance Group performed first -- followed by older students like Douglas.

"It`s developing one life stage to another," Douglas said.

While there were prayers for loved ones lost during 2016, like Za'layia Jenkins who died after she was shot near 15th and Meinecke in May, there was also a determination to look toward tomorrow while honoring the legacy of the past.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa

"Don`t be scared to try new things, or learn about new cultures and stuff," Douglas said.

Tuesday's Kwanzaa theme is self-determination.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa

There will be a community dance and drum event at the Wisconsin African-American Women's Center starting at 6:00 p.m.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa